NewsTop StoriesTrucking

Texas expands truck inspections as death toll rises in migrant smuggling case

4 arrested after 53 migrants perish in tractor-trailer in San Antonio

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced he is setting up new state-run checkpoints to inspect trucks for human-trafficking operations in response to the deaths of 53 migrants inside a tractor-trailer in San Antonio this week.

The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) “will create and implement a checkpoint strategy beginning immediately where they will begin targeting trucks like the one that was used where these people perished,” Abbott said during a news conference Wednesday in the border city of Eagle Pass.

Abbott declined to say where the new checkpoints will be, saying he wanted to “surprise the cartels and the smugglers.”

The tractor-trailer discovered Monday in San Antonio is believed to have been part of a failed human-smuggling operation. Officials said there were as many as 67 migrants inside the trailer. There are now 53 confirmed deaths. Authorities said there appeared to be neither water nor air conditioning in the trailer when the bodies and the survivors were found.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has initiated state-run checkpoints for tractor-trailers entering the U.S. from Mexico for the second time this year in what he says is an effort to curb undocumented migrants crossing into Texas illegally. (Photo: Jim Allen/FreightWaves)

Four people were arrested and charged Wednesday by Homeland Security Investigations for their alleged involvement in the case, according to a Department of Justice news release.

Homero Zamorano Jr., 45, of Pasadena, Texas, was arrested on criminal charges related to alleged involvement in human smuggling resulting in death. Christian Martinez, 28, of Palestine, Texas, was charged with one count of conspiracy to transport undocumented migrants resulting in death.

Two Mexican citizens, Juan Claudio D’Luna-Mendez, 23, and Juan Francisco D’Luna-Bilbao, 48, were also arrested.

The new checkpoints in Texas would be along smuggling corridors that connect ports of entry from Mexico to major cities like San Antonio and Houston, according to Steve McGraw, the director of DPS.

It’s unclear how different the new checkpoints would be from the expanded commercial vehicle inspections that Abbott ordered for about 10 days in April that were also aimed at slowing migrant crossings.

The checkpoints launched by Abbott in April included truck inspections at 20 international crossing locations throughout Texas, including some of the busiest trade bridges in the country, in Laredo and Pharr.  

Abbott’s state-run inspections were in addition to those conducted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Abbott’s April inspection spree eventually cost several Texas border bridges hundreds of millions of dollars in lost trade, trade experts said. He finally ended the increased truck checks when several Mexican governors made commitments to better secure their side of the U.S.-Mexico border.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Noi Mahoney.

More articles by Noi Mahoney

At least 50 people found dead inside tractor-trailer in Texas

One Comment

  1. – Abbott’s April inspection spree eventually cost several Texas border bridges hundreds of millions of dollars in lost trade, trade experts said.
    Abbott was heavily criticized for the inspections. But does the supposed “lost trade” offset the misery and deaths of so many people? The feds need to increase the inspections immediately. The reduced trade might help persuade the Mexican government to participate.

    – He (Abbott) finally ended the increased truck checks when several Mexican governors made commitments to better secure their side of the U.S.-Mexico border.
    But the people were never in the truck on the Mexico side. They pay the cartels, cross the river, disappear inland and eventually get loaded into trucks on the US side. This continues on every day, but we’re only hearing about this event because the driver methed-out and 53 people died.

    Fast trade apparently takes priority over national security and the personal security of both country’s citizens.

Noi Mahoney

Noi Mahoney is a Texas-based journalist who covers cross-border trade, logistics and supply chains for FreightWaves. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English in 1998. Mahoney has more than 20 years experience as a journalist, working for newspapers in Florida, Maryland and Texas. Contact nmahoney@freightwaves.com